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Asian Vampire Sensuality and Other Problems

By Bhanu Kapil

Barbara Jane Reyes: “My question is about women of color publishing now. Why so dispersed? Why so defanged? Why so reticent, so deferential to others’ authority?”

Quick answer: The body.

To write the diasporic body — the race-class body — female body… is… so horrible, I can’t even tell you.

This sentence functions as evidence. The sentence, like the body, starts to break down. How non-linearity reads as craziness, on some level. “Are you on drugs?” There’s that, and also shame: the complicated mixture of shame, vulnerability and aggression that comes with —

With what? I can’t really talk about it. Without exposing my own body to view.

This is why my solution, in one way, is to work it out in a performance setting. To strip down there. To chop meat at a table. To convert the materials of the body — “animals, sugar, blood” — into: into what? Since Friday, inspired by the installation of Hermann Nitsch’s blood/spill paintings at the MCA in Denver — to which I was directed, after a reading by Vanessa Place — (a conversation in a doorway at the reception: about rooms — the room, in her work, as filled with blood) — by Patrick Greaney, who has written a brilliant essay to accompany the show — I’ve: [I've] been thinking about how to: recirculate (redistribute?): the visceral content of my work: as sound.

Donna Haraway: “An ethics of negation.”

How to push that, I guess, as performance: until the body PARTS are [re-dreamed] [streamed] as: as what? The body. The body in a different time. (Looped.) Like a scream. The scream that comes at the beginning of life. Or  love. (Qaawaal.)

The aesthetics are intact. But then the work breaks down again: how do you recombine these “parts” — these fragments — that were disseminated under brutal conditions? How do these larger somatic or cross-cultural enquiries work for “specific bodies?” (Petra Kuppers.)

The work of the body is thus, for me, as a woman of color from a non-U.S background: the particular effort [ethics] of recombinance. The work of light touch. How the sheets of paper are passed so delicately, from one person to another, in the audience. They are nude pages. They are burnt. Touching the paper like this — just as, in a poetry community, perhaps, we pass our poems or books from person to person — is very beautiful to me. It is a form of sensuality I understand.

This is my most recent language towards the question of form, though even this, I could improve. It is indirect. It does not approach what I want to say, and also, I haven’t figured out, yet, how to write such a book. Perhaps someone else, with more courage, will do it instead. LOOP. DREAM. I think that Barbara Jane Reyes, in fact, is doing it. (This.) Jackie Wang is doing it. (This.) Mg Roberts is doing it. (This.) Lina Oh is doing it. (This.) Taking up: questions of: violence, mortality and touch: in ways that — are — are what? Explicit.

And the question breaks down again, at the thought of — what else? The consequences. The consequences of an explicit touch. Or statement. Or wish. Or text: of wishes. Barbara gestures, in her brilliant questions (above) (from her earlier post) — to the politics of shame. To a relationship with, as Barbara writes: “authority.” But that’s separate. I’ll work on that next.

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Posted in Uncategorized on Tuesday, April 5th, 2011 by Bhanu Kapil.